Thursday, January 6, 2011

Postformal dialectics

Back in 2007 Integral Review experimented with a discussion forum for a short time. An author would host dialogue on their article for a designated time, about a month, and the discussions were stored. However due to programming problems, finding an adequate storage site and lack of commitment to the forum it went defunct only after a few discussions and they have all but disappeared from the internet. One such discussion was called “postformal dialectics” based on Gary Hampson's article “Integral reviews postmodernism” in issue 4, June 2007. Although that discussion is gone from their website I preserved several of its posts at Open Integral in 3 parts at these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Here are some excerpts from those links:

I said:

Let's go back to what Bonnitta Roy said:

“It is my feeling that dialectics in the above forms, is formal, not postformal, because it relies on the positing of opposite pairs, which it considers in some kind of tension. I believe that post-formal thinking sees dialectical pairs as self-defining, and therefore the tension is ‘resolved’ or ‘dissolved’ before the is any kind of movement toward synthesis. This opens up into entirely new ways of thinking/ perceiving more in terms of 'constellations' (hunting for the right words here) and what the Buddhists call co-dependent origination.'

[After quoting Wilber from footnote 7 to Excerpt C I said:]

We have aperspectival, nondual satori on the one hand and relative, perspectival consciousness on the other hand which requires a “union,” or synthesis. This is the “dual” nonduality to which I refer, or as Bonnie describes it, the formal operational way of relating them.

[After I provided some quotes from Batchelor on emptiness, and quoting the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Nagarjuna and the two truths]:

Gregory Desilet:

In a post above, Edward has raised the issue of what nonduality might mean in Buddhism and in Nagarjuna's work. His discussion nicely sets forth the deconstruction (if I may) of the Two Truths or “dual” nonduality (relative/absolute) interpretation of Buddhist cosmology (or what I would prefer to call metaphysics).

For Derrida, every dualism to which one could point is “both/and” (and, if you prefer, “neither/nor”). Not everyone who reads Derrida positions him this way, but Gary does (if I read him properly in his article) and I think he gets Derrida right when pointing out, along with Caputo, that Derrida offers more than pluralistic relativism (see page 134). And in a section following this one Gary says (in discussing the Pre/Trans Fallacy) “from a subtler, postformal perspective, Stanislav Grof comments, 'the distinction between pre- and trans- has a paradoxical nature; they are neither identical, nor are they completely different from each other.'” And further, Gary notes, “Here both conceptual agency (or difference) and conceptual communion (or mutual identity) are foregrounded”(page 145). This view of oppositional structure aligns with Derrida and deconstruction. Gary also notes that this resembles the “integrative-but-fluxing dialectic between wave and particle in physics.”

Derrida foregrounds both identity and difference and in any particular instance these do not necessarily have equal status. Every dualism implies an essential difference (i.e., one cannot be reduced to the other) and an essential relation (i.e., one does not occur without the other). This paradox maintains a simultaneity of difference and identity all the way to the core of oppositions such that it cannot rightly be said that either duality or nonduality best describes the situation. That being the case appeals to identity or oneness or wholeness are misleading in attempts to describe cosmological or metaphysical ultimate reality. Granting as much, care must be taken when talking about or making reference to the big picture.

This suggests that we might want to avoid certain expressions such as “holonomic paradigm.” For example the following from Gary's paper (where he is citing Jenny Wade): “The holonomic paradigm posits the existence of (at least) two dimensions of the same reality in a nondual whole.” If the whole is split by difference all the way to the core (as implied in the metaphysics of Derrida's deconstruction) then such terminology is misleading. We need a word that implies both one and two and same and different. In this respect I'm not sure “integral” is the best choice for discussing or theorizing a spirituality that grounds itself in these metaphysical views. It does not give sufficient weight to difference and fragmentation (here I'm not necessarily trying to achieve equal balance). However, certain interpretations or understandings of holism might work but I'm still looking for something better or less potentially misleading (I've been experimenting with the neologism “synagonism,” “syn”-together with, same and “agon”-contest, difference).

[You can also see this prior Gaia discussion with Desilet called "synergist spirituality." If it doesn't load download it and open it in a word document.]

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